YouTube Pledges to Block all Anti-Vaccine Content

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YouTube has announced it will block all anti-vaccine content on its platform, expanding beyond COVID-19.

The video-sharing site outlined its updated medical misinformation policy in a blog post published earlier today. This includes content that alleges approved vaccines cause chronic health effects, such as autism, cancer or infertility, that they do not reduce transmission or contraction of disease or that substances in vaccines can track those who receive them.

These rules will apply both to routine immunizations for conditions like measles or hepatitis B, as well as general statements about vaccines.

YouTube explained it had “learned important lessons about how to design and enforce nuanced medical misinformation policies at scale” while tackling misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic in conjunction with health authorities. In this process, it “looked to balance our commitment to an open platform with the need to remove egregious harmful content” and revealed it had removed more than 130,000 videos for violating its COVID-19 vaccine policies since last year.

The social media company added: “We’ve steadily seen false claims about the coronavirus vaccines spill over into misinformation about vaccines in general, and we're now at a point where it's more important than ever to expand the work we started with COVID-19 to other vaccines.”  

However, it said there are “important exceptions” to these new guidelines due to “the importance of public discussion and debate to the scientific process.” As such, the site will continue to allow content around vaccine policies, new vaccine trials and historical vaccine successes and failures. Additionally, personal testimonials relating to vaccines are permitted as long as the channel “doesn’t show a pattern of promoting vaccine hesitancy.”

YouTube stated: “Today’s policy update is an important step to address vaccine and health misinformation on our platform, and we’ll continue to invest across the board in the policies and products that bring high-quality information to our viewers and the entire YouTube community.”

The announcement follows the decision by YouTube on Tuesday to remove Russian state-backed broadcaster RT’s German-language channels from its site for violating its COVID-19 misinformation policy.

Many in the cybersecurity industry argue that disinformation is a cybersecurity issue. Otavio Freire, CTO at Safeguard Cyber, argued last year that: “Disinformation is a cybersecurity issue. It has already been used as a means for brand value destruction to create divisiveness and conflict within a company's employees, used as a social engineering lure, and as a form of ransomware; where if you want the disinformation to stop, you need to pay."

These actions come amid growing criticism of social media firms like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter for failing to stem the flood of vaccine misinformation on their sites this year. 

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